I cried for a stranger yesterday.
No Kleenex was killed. Just a finger sacrificed but for a few seconds, the few seconds it took for me to read the posts, perhaps for the car accident to have occurred.
An odd Sunday. I really rested, fighting the usual guilt and the malaise, giving in to the Summer Olympic coverage, surprised to find this batch of athletes quite superior to the Sydney batch, the women gymnasts actually stuck their landings in the uneven parallel bars.
And it rained finally, really rained.
Just before dinnertime, after a neighborhood girl, a third, fourth-grader, told me she wished I was her sister, while stroking my hair, I checked the Internet for news, gossip and spoilers.
I found news of a personal sort, a regular poster on a soap opera message board had just lost his wife to a fatal car accident, a cousin announced in his, Lizfan/Russell’s, place, thinking the other regulars might want to know, SoapZone.com being a kind of second home... well, it’s been that way for a lot of us regulars, me since 1996.
I sat there stunned, and ashamed.
I thought of the petty replies I’d made to Lizfan, about Lizfan, grumbling about his devotion to a “General Hospital” soap opera character Elizabeth Webber and the actress Rebecca Herbst who plays her, making amends when I came around to the promise of Elizabeth with Ric, marveling at the clever creativity of such a fan who came up with PEARLS and LiRic, who – mostly – kept out of trouble with rival fan bases and never stirred the pot during board wars, and sometimes...
...wondering if he noticed that despite my past disagreements with him and those consolidated, fan based threads that usually did nothing but keep a fave’s name constantly mentioned and provide chatroom services on a board that was supposed to stick to the subject of GH, I always mentioned (in my News & Gossip column) his favorite actress in the best of terms and made an extra effort to be kind, after an ugly row with him and his Liz fans on the board several years ago about some unkind words about her fan group.
He did acknowledge my replies to his Liz-related posts, with appreciation. That’s about it. Otherwise, with him and his PEARLS/LIRIC fan groups, they continued on, ashes to dust.
Around the same time, my husband walked in, telling me that another neighbor girl was related to the family three houses down, the family whose mother bought some of our hand-me-down infant-wear for her newborn son, who’d been born with several heart defects and endured several surgeries.
Then, our own son, all of two-years-and-seven-months, coming to me with his coy, homesick, “Maaaaaah-meeee,” tilting his cute little face, “Outside?”
I held him, the tears in the corners of my eyes dried up, smelling his sweaty little body, his strawberry-scented hair, so much like his father when he ran around with the other kids outside, a perpetual look of joy and curiosity on his face, his own innate gift for impersonations and slapstick. I remembered the tail end of a dream I’d had that morning, a Top 40 female singer, repeating the chorus refrain, “... you grow up too fast,” just as our son, grown and resembling Rick Hearst (Ric, GH) runs over as I point out a “cool car!” outside the window, Riddick stepping inside, parked against the side of a 57-story condo, flames shooting out of the back engine, the future.
The shock at the suddenness of it all. We never know. It seems so random and so cruel, without consideration for the value of the lives lived, truly karma’s out to lunch.
How stupid, useless and petty my arguments with Lizfan and his wife were, over a soap opera. They’re decent people with children, like me, and I wasted so much time salvaging my bruised ego over four or five lines from a weekly soap opera column.
There are a couple more Lizfans like him, a Nikolas devotee with whom I had a falling out with, my former boss whom I felt didn’t appreciate me, the church friend whose boundaries I didn’t know I’d crossed last Thanksgiving by allowing our son to enter their home, previously sick... It’s time to let go.
I second-guessed writing this. I didn’t want it to come off as tacky, capitalizing on a tragedy to make my noble-martyr point. I didn’t want Lizfan and his family to feel at all exploited.
But I did want to apologize, publicly, and leave myself (maybe you, too) a reminder.
Another day, and I’m here as usual, sipping my coffee, checking the Internet, the “Today Show” on NBC in the living room down the hall, still raining. I don’t know why I am. As a drama queen moving around a lot, growing up here and there on military bases, dealing with racism and my younger brother’s fat jokes, Michael Struthers terrorizing me on a near-daily basis at school, my parents’ ugly, violent divorce, I used to pray to God, every night from 5th to 9th grade, then off and on into college, to please kill me so I would not see the morning.
For some strange reason, He never listened.
I’m lucky. I’m still here. But I shouldn’t be if all I can remember of this grace is to harbor grudges, talk smack behind decent people’s backs over asinine misunderstandings, and do nothing with my own life but wait for it to be over.
It’s not, not yet.
I have so much to be thankful for. I’d like to believe my gratitude would last longer than it took for the tears to dry up, but I know better.
I better start counting.
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